In a soundbite that may have Faugheen backers nervously scratching their heads, Willie Mullins yesterday described Hurricane Fly as his “top Champion Hurdle horse”, after his 10-year-old racked up his 21st Grade 1 success in the Ryanair Hurdle.
It was the second time this season that The Fly had turned the tables on Cheltenham conqueror Jezki, after seeing him off in the Morgiana Hurdle, yet the two-time champion remains a 14/1 shot.
So is there value in Rose Boyd’s pride and joy for the opening day showpiece at the Festival?
Well, certainly when you consider Faugheen is 5/4 (from 2/1) after his Christmas Hurdle romp and Jezki, the horse dispatched the last twice is less than half the veteran’s odds at 6/1, he looks a tempting each-way proposition.
His handler’s comments were intriguing as he went on to say:
“Faugheen looks the one coming up, but The Fly is the one doing it.
“He’s shown me at home that his zest for racing was still there after he had two less-than-good runs at the end of last season.
“He’s the best horse anyone has ever had over hurdles, and I would say I’ll never have another like him. He’s unique,” the County Carlow told the Racing Post after he made it nine from nine at Leopardstown.
The way in which he battled Jessica Harrington’s charge all the way to the line was like the horse of old, and demonstrated his ability to stick his neck out and fight for Ruby Walsh.
He may not have the assistance of the stable jockey at the Festival, but it is his proven willing attitude that makes him a tempting antepost proposition.
Faugheen is in no way backable this far ahead of the race at 5/4 and he has yet to be asked how much fight he has when off the bridle.
Hurricane May may indeed, not get his stablemate off the bridle at Cheltenham, but if he does, the discrepancy in price could well become apparent.
The New One (5/2) looks the sole serious contender from this side of the Irish Sea and with Graeme Rodway claiming in today’s Racing Post he “would have been an easy winner had he not been hampered badly at the third-last” (I’m not so sure), he will tough for The Fly to reverse the form.
Nevertheless, the price on the 2011 and 2013 champion in comparison to his rivals, looks far too big at this stage and must represent the ante-post value.
And if he makes it three on the bounce against Jezki in the next possible meeting in the Irish Champion Hurdle at the end of January, he certainly won’t be going off a 14/1 shot come March.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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